APR Update: To Flip or Not to Flip?

by Deborah Gentry, Ed.D., CFLE, NCFR Academic Program Liaison
CFLE Network

Currently, on my campus, a small group of faculty has come together as a "teaching-learning community" to discuss the concept of "the flipped classroom." Informing their discussions is the content of a webinar produced by Magna Publications and assorted readings, some of which are noted at the close of this column. The flipped classroom has also been called the backwards classroom and the act of flipping the classroom has been called flip teaching, reverse teaching, and reverse or inverted instruction. This approach to teaching and learning has been gaining notoriety since the 1990s. Many readers may be familiar with the approach and, to some degree, implementing it in their own classrooms.

A traditional approach to teaching and learning has been to assign learners to read subject matter content (e.g., book chapter or article) on their own time prior to coming to class. Once in class, the instructor highlights main ideas via lecture and, perhaps, engages the students in Socratic dialogue about the content and provides one or more learning activities by which the students can demonstrate their mastery of related knowledge and skills. Learning activities may occur during class time, but are often completed outside of the classroom as homework. The instructor is perceived to be the "sage on the stage."

Flipping this traditional approach not only calls for students to read subject matter content on their own time, but also expects them to watch, listen, and process content presented (e.g., lecture or demonstration) by podcast and/or vodcast. Having been created using online web tools and web course management programs, these presentations can be watched and listened to as many times as it takes for the learner to perceive s/he has come to understand the content satisfactorily. In theory, once the instructor and students come together during class time, there is little or no need for further lecture. Instead, the instructor facilitates learning activities for the students that involve collaboration with fellow students, application of content, and problem-solving. The instructor is perceived to be the "guide on the side" who is available to give constructive and corrective feedback to learners as they carry out their activities.

CFLE Content Area 10 – Family Life Education serves as a context for further explanation and illustration. As a quick reminder, the Handbook for Academic Program Review Application states the following with regard to this content area:

Content: An understanding of the general philosophy and broad principles of family life education in conjunction with the ability to plan, implement, and evaluate such educational programs. e.g., Research and theories related to: Planning and Implementing; Evaluation (materials, student progress, & program effectiveness); Education Techniques; Sensitivity to Others (to enhance educational effectiveness); Sensitivity to Community Concerns and Values (understanding of the public relations process).

Practice—A CFLE can:

a. Employ a variety of current educational strategies

b. Employ techniques to promote application of information in the learner's environment

c. Create learning environments that are respectful of individual vulnerabilities, needs, & learning styles

d. Demonstrate sensitivity to diversity & community needs, concerns, & interests

e. Develop culturally-competent educational materials & learning experiences

f. Identify appropriate sources for evidence-based information

g. Develop educational experiences

1. needs assessment

2. goals & objectives

3. content development

4. implementation

5. evaluation/outcome measures

h. Promote & market educational programs

i. Implement adult education principles into work with families & parents

j. Establish & maintain appropriate personal & professional boundaries

The goal of these curriculum guidelines is to provide a foundation for faculty as they design or redesign a course to fulfill this content area. As has been mentioned in previous newsletter columns, course design processes involve formulating course objectives and student learning outcomes; identifying the nature and scope of crucial content; determining the best ways to deliver instruction and at what pace; selecting reading and other resource materials; developing meaningful learning activities for students; and devising various methods and tools for measuring students' mastery of relevant knowledge and skills (Fink, 2003).

To illustrate, the instructor of a Family Life Education course could direct students to, on their own time, read a textbook chapter and take in a podcast of a lecture the instructor has prepared about various FLE methods and their advantages and disadvantages. For each key method, a video demonstration could be provided for viewing outside the classroom. Reverse or inverted teaching could be among the methods addressed. Students could be assigned to watch a TED video featuring Salmon Khan speaking about his applications of flip teaching. During class time, the instructor could elicit questions and reactions from students about various methods. Eventually, in small groups during class time, students could collaboratively plan, prepare, deliver (to the remainder of the class), and evaluate simulated family life education lessons. Each group could be required to exemplify both a different, yet suitable, delivery and evaluation method. When all simulations were completed, students could debrief by sharing their insights about the strengths and limitations of the various methods used.

Flip teaching has its cautions. It is not appropriate for every topic or skill to be learned. It requires instructional technology that may not be easily accessible for all instructors and students. Even when available, every instructor and student may not be adequately technologically literate to effectively and efficiently use the required online web tools. Learner motivation and self-directedness are of concern as well. Students who typically have not been motivated to undertake less demanding study tasks outside of class are not likely to be inclined to take on that which is more demanding. Such students may well continue to come to class underprepared.

Nonetheless, inverting the flow of classroom instruction could be beneficial for many family life education contexts, faculty, and students. Consider reading about this approach, talking about it with colleagues, observing peers who use it, and piloting a few flipped lessons of your own. The

outcome of your experiences could make for an interesting presentation at an upcoming conference (e.g., Teaching Family Science or NCFR).


Bergmann, J. & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Washington, D.C.: International Society of Technology in Education.

Berrett, D. (February 19, 2012). How flipping the classroom can improve the traditional lecture. Chronicle of Higher Education, retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/How-Flipping-the-Classroom/130857/ .

Educause. (February 7, 2012). Seven things you should know about flipped classrooms. Educause, retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/7-things-you-should-know-about... .

Fink, D. L. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kachka, P. (October 23, 2012). Understanding the flipped classroom: Part 1. Faculty Focus, retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/u....

Kachka, P. (October 24, 2012). Understanding the flipped classroom: Part 2. Faculty Focus, retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/u... .

Khan, S. (June 22, 2012). How can videos "flip the classroom?" Ted Radio Hour, National Public Radio (NPR), retrieved from http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&... .

Magna Online Seminars. (February 12, 2013). The flipped approach to a learner-centered class. Retrieved from http://www.magnapubs.com/catalog/the-flipped-approach-to-a-learner-cente... .